Hey everyone, Chris Brooke here with an update on SPEAR17 day 63. So today was a chilly start, we awoke to howling winds, the tent was 1 degree inside, and outside it was -40s. The horizon was barely visible as there was so much cloud. We left our campsite and contoured around the mountain range, the Roberts Massif, or so we thought. After a quick nav check, we realised we needed to head further down. So, as a result, instead of back-tracking, which would have just taken far too much time, we decided to use the 50metre rope that we have, and we lowered the pulks off the side of the mountain. And once we were all successful with five pulks, we soon followed. It was really quite steep, but it was great fun and always safe. But especially with the weather conditions and strong winds, we all had the wind in our faces.
From there, we continued on down the Zaneveld Glacier, which is where we’re currently situated and have set camp for this evening. And that’s just short of the Shackleton Glacier. But descending down the Zaneveld was quite epic in itself. The views are literally stunning. It is so picturesque with stature of the mountain peaks, all different colours, with snow and ice covering them, creating all manner of different shapes and contours, which really is absolutely beautiful. It’s just such a privilege just to be here and to see these – absolutely amazing.
But at times we were quite dicey as well, coming down the Glacier. And to be honest, my heart was going, for the most there was quite a small covering of snow, over large crevasses and mounds of ice as well. Either you slipped over, or, for myself in particular, fell down some of the small crevasses. Just as an example, I’d be walking along, and then all of a sudden – whoosh – the ground opened up and I was literally hanging on to the side of floor with my elbows, while the rest of my body was inside the crevasse and my legs were literally dangling into thin air. After I got my bearings, I could then climb out and look back down the hole in the ground and some are maybe 10 feet deep. And then literally some, you just couldn’t see the bottom, it was so far down, so it was quite scary. This happened at least several times throughout the day, and you just didn’t know where to step because it could just happen. People don’t often come round this neck of the woods, so to speak, this part of Antarctica, that’s what makes it interesting, challenging and truly a an expedition.
And talking about expeditions, with kit and equipment, this week alone I have managed to: slip on some ice, land on my ski pole and snap it in half, also the binding on my ski also broke and snapped, maybe a day or two later. The binding attaches to the boot so you can walk with a ski on. So the bar on the toe of my ski boots broke, that’s been twice this week, so the reason I was falling down the crevasses and it was nobody else, is because I’m walking again. The rope on my pulk snapped. So just like a true expedition, these things happen and you just adapt and overcome. Just keep smiling and and just crack on really. But just to mention that these things do happen. Luckily we’re well prepared and we have got spares, and we’ve pretty much gone through all the spares as well. But tonight, I’ve hopefully managed to fix my boot again but we’ll find out tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow, we hope to start our descent of the Shackleton Glacier at some point, which is our final milestone. As the expedition is near to an end, this may be my last blog, as hopefully we only have a short while left after completing the full traverse – weather depending of course. The sun has come out this evening, and the temperatures have improved, which makes it even better for the progressive mileage over the following week, fingers crossed.
So, as a recap, whilst in Antarctica, we have hauled, or dragged, our pulks over 1,000 miles, we have visited the South Pole, climbed in altitude to over 10,000 feet, actually nearly 11,000 feet, up and over the Titan Dome and held a memorial to the great Henry Worsley which was such an honour and a privilege to partake in. Overall, we have been relatively lucky with the weather, but have encountered extreme cold, windy katabatic storms, not to mention the complete white outs, when navigation is pretty much near impossible. And really, for maybe the first few weeks, I was basically walking round in circles and the rest of the team were like ‘Chris! Chris! You’re going the wrong way!’ But when you can’t see in front of you, you do have to keep an eye on the compass. This experience has been a lifetime opportunity for me. I couldn’t have achieved it with a better team that have all got on so well, and lived the core values of what the Army practices – team work, leadership, integrity, humility, strength, fitness and honour.
Lou has been a great expedition leader, he has always made the correct judgments, using his experience and team work and delegated tasks and knowledge of the weather and when to, and when not to travel and when to use crampons as well. He’s just been a fantastic team leader.
Jamie, fit and fast, is always at the front, smiling away, and beating all of us. Ollie, strong as an ox, taking weight when needed, setting a good pace, to always ensue that the team made great progress with the important mileage update, which we all look forward to hearing at the end of the day from Lou. Alex, always helping out and trying to fix things, usually till midnight. A bit of a night owl. Cookers, skis, and mainly of course my boots which I think he enjoyed doing. I think I definitely owe him a few drinks when we get back. So I’d just like to say that I hope Al is doing well and Al was my tent buddy for a good while and we had some good chats, always dug deep and persevered and just cracked on. And just smiling as always.
And I’d just like to say we’ve had such a fantastic time and it was a privilege. And thanks to the Army, the reason I’m here, and of course Lou for choosing me for the team in the first place. And finally I’d just like to say thank you to everybody that’s supported the team and myself and donated. We do really truly, honestly appreciate all you help and you’re the true heroes. A big thank you to my family and friends and finally to my beautiful wife Melissa. I love you. Keep on listening, following supporting and sharing and thanks again. Have a great day everyone. Onwards.